I'm back. Let me start where I left off...
A few interesting facts about the sims... At a value of roughly $16 million, American's 3 dozen or so simulators run approximately 20 hours each day, undergoing routine preventative maintenance from midnight until 4 am, then resuming duties as a trainer. They are very expensive to operate, also, with the cost of operating the Saab 340B or ATR simulators is almost as great as flying the actual airplane. For these planes, the only benefit to the simulator is safety. Finally, among their many Class D simulators, American still has several Boeing 707s and KC-135s. One final "simulator", which is actually just a flight training device, is an F-100 with neither motion nor visual display, but just a cockpit with audio.
After touring the flight simulator buildings, we moved into the last part of our tour, the cabin trainer room. Here, American has cabin mockups for every type of aircraft in its fleet, as well as for the Eagle fleet types. The 757 cabin was actually a full motion simulator, on the same type of hydrolic base as a cockpit sim. This area also has a pool, from which flight attendants must be able to get into one of the airplane's rafts and a fire area where they learn to extinguish fires.
When we were done with this, the tour was over, and I headed next door to the C.R. Smith Museum, which I highly reccommend to anyone in the DFW area. The museum chronicles the history of American Airlines, and to a lesser extent ofg the industry as a whole. There are a lot of interactive exhibits and some cool electronic quizzes. There are also a lot of memorabilia that was donated to the museum, such as timetables, ads, articles, and other AA novelties relating to all different periods in the company's history. The pride of the museum is the Flagship Knoxville, a fully restored and airworthy DC-3 that sits in a glass hangar in the front of the museum. The Flagship Knoxville, which I was able to enter and sit in, sits on a floor of bricks that are personalized by the many employees, companies, and others who supporting the construction of the hangar. Among the names I saw were not only American employees, but also aerospace companies and even employees of other airlines. No visit to the C.R. Smith Museum would be complete without watching "The Dream Of Flight," a movie that covers American's history. It goes over the companies beginnings, from the predecessor's very first flight by Charles Lindbergh to the giant it has become today, but the best part is the cool cinemetography. In one scene, you feel as if you are in an airplane doing barrel rolls, and other shots show a group of beautiful airplanes in formation flight over some mountains - a DC-6 in the lightning bolt scheme, as well as a 757 and an MD-80 in the current paint. A lot of other shots show different places that AA flies, such as a nice panning shot of Big Ben, downtown New York, and other cities. One particularly sweet clip showed the desert ground moving very quickly under the camera, then angled up to show the Grand Canyon. It was really a good 20 minutes. As a side note, the seats in the theatre are all First Class seats from American's (current) old interiors.
On Sunday, I went on another tour of the facility because I forgot to take a picture of the F-100 simulator that I was in. After that, I stayed for one 777 sim time raffle that I lost before I had to head to the airport for my trip back to school.
To answer your questions, Ben, the plane flew itself all the way to the ground, even calling out the height above touchdown that we were at various points along the glide path. All I did on the landing segment was apply the brakes after touchdown to stop the plane. The takeoff, however, was fully handflown. And yes, since I was the first one in my topur group to enter the sim, I was sitting in the captains seat. For future reference, a Cat IIIC ILS has no mimimums, and can be flown in 0/0 conditions if the aircraft, flight crew, and operator are qualified to do so.
To close my little tale, I will say that it was awe inspiring to be standing in the heart of one of the largest airlines in the world, just as I'm sure that it would be awe inspriring to be at the heart of Delta or another large carrier. I would have specifically included United, but they're different in that their flight training is not at headquarters as American's is, but in Denver, so there really is no all-encompassing center of the airline. The feeling when walking into the building the first time was amazing - standing in the halls of such a large and dynamic airline. I read a sign on an APA bulletin board that really drove it all home. It read simply, "The World's Finest Airline Pilots Train Here". Now, I'm sure we all have an opinion on the accuracy of this statement, and I'm not saying that it is true or false. But to be in a flight training facility and read that really gives you a feeling that you're surrounded by greatness. This trip was great, and given the opportunity I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would just as quickly accept the opportunity to head to Atlanta, Chicago, or Denver and visit the airlines that would be visited there. If you ever get such an opportunity, I say go for it. If you have any other questions about this visit, feel free to ask.